Top-ranked USC Tops Cal In SoCal Tournament Final

Trojans entered tourney with 30 straight victories before claiming 6-5 win in title match


Oct. 16, 2006

By Josh Herwitt

CSTV.com

 

JOSH HERWITT
Josh is CSTV.com's men's basketball editor and writes a weekly national column.
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LOS ANGELES -- As the only undefeated team remaining in the country, top-ranked USC knew the stakes were high to win this year's SoCal Tournament with 12 of the nation's Top 20 teams coming to town.

 

After all, the defending national champions had rattled off 30 consecutive victories prior to tournament play, and that streak wasn't about to end on Sunday.

 

Junior goalkeeper Adam Shilling made save after save down the stretch for the Trojans as USC out-dueled second-ranked California in the championship match to claim a 6-5 victory at McDonald's Swim Stadium.

 

"We have the best goalie in the country," USC coach Jovan Vavic said about Shilling. "He always prepares well for the big games. He's just mentally tough."

 

Shilling finished with 12 saves, but none was bigger than his stop from the right side of the goal with 48 ticks left on the clock.

 

"I just wasn't going to let them score near side," he said. "I made them shoot across the cage, and it turned out to be an easier block than it could have been."

 

Vavic has been able to depend on J.W. Krumpholz to boost the team's offensive production, and the freshman two-meter striker came up in a big moment and delivered against Cal.

 

Krumpholz broke a 5-5 tie with 5:50 remaining in the match after firing a shot past goalkeeper Mark Sheredy, and USC's defense clamped down on the Golden Bears in the final minute, stealing the ball from junior attacker Jeff Tyrrell on a drive with 19 seconds left.

 

"The strength of our team is that we're well-balanced," Vavic said. "Any given game any guy can step up."

 

Drew Vyn was one of six Trojans to score against the Bears while sophomore two-meter striker Jovan Vranes contributed a goal that pushed USC out to a 5-3 lead at 4:22 in the third period.

 

"We wanted to score goals in 6-on-5 situations and on counterattack opportunities," Vranes said. "That  basically was our game plan the whole way."

 

It wasn't enough for Cal in the end, but there's no doubt that coach Kirk Everist will have his team ready to face the Trojans when the two meet again in Los Angeles Nov. 18 to finish off Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play.

 

"Our passing was killing us out there, but they have a great defense at the same time," Everist commented. "I'm proud of our guys. We just got to figure out a way to get over the hump."

 

USC (15-0, 3-0 MPSF) held the Bears scoreless through the first period of play, but Cal responded with two goals in the following eight minutes as senior attacker Andrija Vasiljevic evened the score at 2-2 just before halftime with a shot from seven meters out.

 

The Trojans dethroned California of its No. 1 ranking back on Sept. 17 at the NorCal Tournament in Palo Alto with a 10-7 upset that propelled USC to the top of the polls -- a position they have held for four straight weeks since overtaking the Bears less than a month ago.

 

"Getting up for every game is difficult," Shilling said. "It's good to see that we can still bring the heat when we really need to."

 

So what are the chances that the Trojans can repeat as national championships this season?

 

"You can't think about it right now," Vavic said. "We have so many tough games left to play. It would be an absolute dream-come-true."

 

But Cal (17-3, 0-1) has stayed strong since dropping to No. 2 in the country.

 

In fact, UCLA coach Adam Krikorian praised Cal after watching his team suffer an 8-6 loss to the Bears in the second semifinal.

 

"Cal's a great team," he said. "They're deep, they're physical and they're certainly in the hunt for a championship."

 

Trailing 8-4 with less than six minutes remaining in the contest, the fourth-ranked Bruins hinted at a comeback when senior center Grant Zider found the back of the net at 2:29 in the fourth quarter.

 

But UCLA (9-3, 1-0 MPSF) couldn't score quickly enough again, and Zider's lone goal was too little too late.

 

"It came down to just executing for us," Krikorian said. "We did a very poor job in front of the goal. We got the opportunities, but we played scared."

 

Freshman attacker Kevin Kuga had a good look at the goal with a minute left in the contest, but his shot missed wide right, sealing a spot in the championship game for Cal.

 

A sluggish effort prevented UCLA from ever challenging Cal, who jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on junior attacker Michael Sharf's penalty goal at 1:56.

 

"I thought we were a step slow," Krikorian admitted after the match. "Against a team like Cal, you can't be a step slow. I don't know if we're thinking too much, but we just got to get out there and play."

 

"It's these kinds of games that prepare your team for the rest of the season. It's not going to get more difficult than this."

 

UCLA rebounded in the afternoon to take third place, cruising to a 12-3 win over third-ranked UC San Diego as junior center Marco Santos tied a career-high with four goals.

 

On the other side, the Tritons only managed to score one goal before halftime while the Bruins followed up in the second half with a 6-0 run that put the game out of reach.

 

UCSD battled back and forth with USC in the tournament's first semifinal, but senior driver Juan Delgadillo's goal from the left wing with 2:05 remaining in the fourth period proved to be too much for coach Denny Harper's squad as the Trojans hung on for a 10-9 victory.

 

Shilling tallied eight saves, blocking a shot with 13 seconds left to seal the victory.

 

Tournament Notes: With two freshmen starting, Stanford might be more than a year away from contending for a national title, but the fifth-ranked Cardinal proved to have too much firepower for No. 7 Pacific after claiming a 14-6 win Sunday afternoon.

 

Senior driver Tyler Drake finished with six goals, all of them coming in the first half to put the Cardinal out front, 8-3, at halftime.

 

"I didn't even realize he scored six goals," said Stanford coach John Vargas of Drake. "The first person that's open is going to take the shot, and he happened to be the one."

 

Stanford's leading scorer, sophomore Will Hindle-Katel, was held scoreless by the Tigers, but senior utility player J.J. Garton, junior two-meter striker Michael Bury and freshman attacker Ryan McCarthy picked up the slack for the Cardinal, each scoring two goals.

 

"We played not to lose," Vargas added. "Today we played to win."

 

Senior driver Mike Mitchell and senior utility player Matt Turnbull each contributed two goals for Pacific, but the Tigers never looked comfortable against Stanford's defensive pressure and quick-attack offense.

 

Earlier in the day, Stanford defeated No. 13 Pepperdine, 7-3, at the Coliseum pool while the eighth-ranked Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara upended No. 16 Air Force, 10-6, and Loyola Marymount held off No. 14 Long Beach State to capture an 11-10 victory.

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